Apr 30, 2015

Cody nurse contests sexual assault allegations, but case moves forward

An attorney for a Cody man accused of sexually assaulting a female patient during a January surgical procedure attacked the case against him at a court hearing last week.

“A large portion of the case is based on speculation on the part of the state,” argued William Struemke, a Cody attorney who’s defending registered nurse Robert W. Guty.

The Park County Circuit Courtroom in Cody
Struemke questioned the motives of the fellow nurse who reported catching Guty with his fingers inside a sedated patient’s genitals. As for other nurses’ statements that they’d suspected Guty of inappropriate touches for some time, “we’re not here for those rumors,” he said.

Struemke made the remarks during a preliminary hearing held Friday in Park County Circuit Court in Cody, where he asked that the case be dismissed. However, Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters found there was enough evidence for Guty’s first-degree sexual assault charge to proceed to District Court — though he wondered if all the allegations contained in charging documents would be admissible at a trial.

Guty is currently free on a $60,000 cash bond. He has relinquished his ability to work as a nurse as part of an administrative proceeding before the Wyoming Board of Nursing, Struemke said. The board’s website lists Guty as being currently licensed with no record of any discipline.

“Money’s a big motivator, you would agree? ... If somebody felt they were losing money due to somebody else, that could be a motivator to seek revenge, could it not?” Struemke asked.

The procedure in question took place at the Northern Wyoming Surgical Center, where Guty had been working. He denied the allegations when confronted by the surgical center’s administrator, but was fired after an internal investigation, charging documents say.

In the incident in question, a female patient was sedated and undergoing a procedure on her foot when a nurse reportedly saw Guty’s put his hand under the patient’s blanket, near her hip, Cody Police Detective Jason Stafford wrote in a charging affidavit.

Having held suspicions about Guty’s handling of women for some time, the nurse said she pulled back the blanket and saw Guty quickly remove his hand from the woman’s genitals, Stafford wrote.

Besides Guty and the nurse who reported seeing the alleged sexual assault, there were three other medical providers in the room. Stafford recounted Friday that none of the others reported seeing anything unusual and that the patient has no memory of the procedure.

“Only one person allegedly saw something, correct?” Struemke asked the detective during cross-examination, adding later, “Does that strike you as odd?”

Stafford said it did not.

“People were in different positions in the room. Some said they had their back to them (the patient), others said they were paying attention to their vitals,” the detective said.

Only one of the four other medical providers in the room reported seeing Guty inappropriately touch the patient; the other said they had been focused on other tasks and saw nothing, Stafford recounted.

The nurse who reported the allegations told Stafford she had a good working relationship with Guty, but Struemke argued that Guty had to repeatedly remind her to punch out of work, “thereby costing her money.”

“Money’s a big motivator, you would agree? ... If somebody felt they were losing money due to somebody else, that could be a motivator to seek revenge, could it not?” Struemke asked Stafford.

Three other nurses at the surgical center told Stafford that, based on their observations, they’d also come to believe Guty was inappropriately touching female patients; one nurse was concerned enough that she wore extra layers of clothing when she had a procedure at the surgical center, Stafford recounted.

Struemke noted that Guty hasn’t been charged with any crimes in connection with the other nurses’ allegations. He asked why Stafford would care about about the “rumors.”

“I care about them because I was looking at the totality of the circumstances, and then you have this act that occurs,” Stafford said, though he added that the other nurses’ suspicions and observations were not the basis for the felony charge.

Struemke said there were a lot of unanswered questions and some holes in the case.

For example, he suggested it was physically impossible for the witnessing nurse to have lifted up the blanket, given she was holding the patient’s leg.

Judge Waters, however, said the state met the relatively low legal burden of probable cause and bound Guty’s case over to District Court.

“If you look through the affidavit of probable cause, it is filled, certainly, with allegations of prior inappropriate conduct by this defendant. That is very concerning to the state,” said prosecutor Bryan Skoric.

As per Wyoming law, Guty’s name was kept confidential by court officials until it advanced to District Court, but Cody News Company independently learned his identity after the charge was filed.

Struemke made an unsuccessful request on Friday to have Guty’s bond lowered to $20,000 cash. It had been lowered from $75,000 to $60,000 at an earlier hearing, an amount Guty posted six days after his initial March 3 arrest.

Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric objected to a further reduction in bond.

“If you look through the affidavit of probable cause, it is filled, certainly, with allegations of prior inappropriate conduct by this defendant. That is very concerning to the state,” Skoric said.

“In no way, shape, or form should these other random things placed in the affidavit ... hinder my client,” countered Struemke.

Judge Waters said the District Court will need to decide whether the statements in the affidavit are admissible or relevant for a trial, but that aside, he believed bond was appropriate at $60,000.

Guty will next enter a plea in District Court. The date was no immediately set.

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